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Pay concerns 'driving retention issues in pharmacy'

Concerns around pay and workload are partly behind growing retention issues among the community pharmacy workforce, a new report has warned.

The review from the Community Pharmacy Workforce Development Group (CPWDG), which is published today (June 3), says pharmacies are facing “significant challenges recruiting and retaining colleagues, and a high number of longstanding vacancies”.

The CPWDG, which has representatives from the National Pharmacy Association, Company Chemists’ Association and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, surveyed 40 per cent of England’s 11,800 pharmacies in July 2020, revealing that almost 10 per cent of full-time pharmacist roles were vacant.

Vacancy rates were “significantly higher” in the South of England, reaching 18 per cent in the South West, while those pharmacies that reported having vacancies said on average that posts went unfilled for “around 26 weeks”.

“Concerns are not confined to pharmacists,” the report notes, revealing that vacancies for pharmacy technicians remain open for an average of six months, while turnover rates for some support staff roles can exceed 25 per cent per annum. 

Reasons for this are “complex and multifaceted,” says the report, citing “concerns about pay, excessive workload and pressure, inflexible working hours and a lack of opportunities for career progression”.

Some members of the CPWDG have also noted that some pharmacists are “leaving the sector to join other parts of pharmacy, resulting in shortfalls in community pharmacy”.

The review points to GPhC data indicating a decline in people choosing to study MPharm degrees in recent years, and to reports that more students are “going through the clearing process to gain places at schools of pharmacy… which may have an effect on the quality of students joining the profession”.  The CPWDG says it is looking at ways to promote pharmacy “as a career of choice”. 

The CPWDG makes a number of recommendations, including supporting the wider pharmacy team to carry out “additional tasks” to free up pharmacists for clinical services, giving primary care networks greater flexibility to commission pharmacy services locally, making it easier for existing pharmacists to access prescribing training and establishing a structured CPD programme for community pharmacy teams at a national level.

AIMp chief executive Leyla Hannbeck commented: “Community pharmacy has experienced a lot during the past months and years and consistently shown resilience. Our sector is the first image that comes to public’s mind of pharmacy and the dedicated pharmacy teams go over and beyond daily to deliver great patient care.

"As the recent PSNC survey has demonstrated, the NHS cannot do without community pharmacy and it is therefore essential that all stakeholders come together to ensure our sector receives the relevant support and recognition, and is given the right opportunities for our workforce to utilise their skillsets.

"The wellbeing of their teams is a priority for our members and we continue working collaboratively with colleagues across the sector and with decision-makers to ensure community pharmacy workforce development and wellbeing is a priority.”

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